In reviewing the Cardinals' top pitchers from 1965 forward one name is easily at the top of the list, Bob Gibson. Beyond that, the Cards have had some hard-throwing right-handed starters that have stood out, as well as a couple of lefties. The Cards have also had some former Cubs help out in their pen. So, here’s the list:
Starting pitchers: Bob Gibson
During Bob’s 17 years with the Cardinals, he was one of the most feared pitchers in baseball. Equipped with great stuff and a warrior’s mentality, Gibson stands head and shoulders above other Cardinals starters. And that’s not meant as a slam against them. For his career, Gibson went 251–174 with an ERA of 2.91. During the “Year of the Pitcher”, 1968, Gibson had one of the greatest years in the history of MLB. His ERA for the year was 1.12 and he had a record of 22–9. Gibson also pitched in three world series for the Cardinals, going 7–2 with an ERA of 1.89. Gibson was the world series MVP in two of those series. He also won two Cy Young awards. Finally, Bob was also a pretty good hitter, hitting .206 with 24 home runs for his career. Bob Gibson was a great pitcher, and athlete.
Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright
Wainwright gets the nod over Chris Carpenter for the second slot by virtue of longer tenure with the Cardinals. As I write this, Wainwright is in his 17th season with the Cards. His record stands at 189–109 with an ERA of 3.34. Wainwright has battled injuries throughout his career but has 2 seasons of 20 wins, 2 seasons of 19 wins, one season with 17 wins, and 2 seasons of 14 wins. Wainwright can also swing the bat, currently carrying a career batting average of .193 with 10 homers.
Starting pitcher: Chris Carpenter
Carpenter’s Cardinals career is very much like Adam Wainwright’s, only shorter. In his 9 seasons with the Cardinals, Carpenter went 95–44 with an ERA of 3.07. Like many Cardinals, Carpenter was exceptional in the post-season. Chris’ post-season record was 104 with an ERA of 3.00.
Starting pitcher: Steve Carlton
Before he became the best left-hander in baseball during the 1970’s, Lefty had a pretty good career with the Cardinals. In 7 seasons with the Cards, Carlton went 77–62 with an ERA of 3.10. After going 20–9 for the Cardinals in 1971, Steve was traded to the Phillies for Rick Wise. Rick was a good pitcher, but no Steve Carlton.
Starting pitcher: John Tudor
While John Tudor didn’t have a long career with the Cardinals, he certainly had an effective one. While Tudor pitched for 4 teams in his 12-year career, he was easily at his most effective for the Cardinals. Tudor’s best year with the Cardinals was 1985 when he went 21–8 with 10 shutouts. For his five years with the Cards, Tudor finished at 62–26 with an ERA of 2.52. That was good enough to beat out Joaquin Andujar for the 5th slot.
Relief pitcher: Bruce Sutter
After starting out with the Cubs Sutter was traded to the Cardinals for Leon Durham, Ken Reitz, and Ty Waller. (You’re welcome.) Bruce pitched four seasons with the Cardinals, saving 127 games. His high water mark was 1984 when he had 45 saves. Amazingly, he pitched 122.2 innings that season. I was surprised to see his Ks per 9 innings was only 5.9 in his tenure with the Cards. Of course, his splitter did induce a lot of ground balls.
Relief pitchers: Jason Isringhausen
While Isringhausen wasn’t a dominant closer, his 217 saves with the Cardinals are hard to overlook. His Ks per 9 innings was 8.2 per 9 innings, which isn’t an elite number for a closer. His WHIP was 1.19. Jason was a good reliever, though not a great one.
Relief pitcher: Lee Smith
Another one-time Cub makes his way onto this list. During his three-plus seasons with the Cards, Smith managed to record 40+ saves three times, twice leading the NL in that category.
The Cardinals have had a number of excellent relievers pop over the years. Todd Worrell, Joe Hoerner, and Al Hrabosky get an honorable mention.
There are my picks for the best Cardinals pitchers since 1965. Your opinions may vary.
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